Hello all! I am so pleased to share my game, Matched, with all of you. I developed this project in my Games and Literature class this semester. Below is my developer's statement that I wrote to accompany the game. To play, click this link: Matched. Happy reading and happy playing!
Romance and sex are so prevalent in today’s society that they have become obligatory. “Matched” is a subversion of the dating simulator genre that demonstrates how obsessions with romance and sex can be incredibly alienating to people who do not experience these forms of attraction. Taking some inspiration from my lived experience, “Matched” explores asexual and aromantic identities and themes throughout the game.
Besides my personal experience, “Matches” takes inspiration from games that defy the dating simulator formula, like “Doki Doki Literature Club” and “A Witch’s Word.” The queer Twine genre, as shown in games like “CRY$TAL WARRIOR KE$HA” gave me a lot of courage to write this story. Likewise, games like “Depression Quest” influenced how I presented the game because I wanted the player to be put into the mindset of someone who is asexual and aromantic. This way, by making choices as the character, the player would learn and understand this experience.
Told in the second person, “Matched” begins with a character being set up on several dates by their mom in an attempt to find a partner. During these dates, the player is not presented with a lot of choices because the lack of control demonstrates the feeling of being trapped in romance and sex-obsessed ideals. With each date, the character grows more uncomfortable. A pink-to-black background color gradient is used to emphasize this discomfort. These interactions are also written with a short, dry tone to show how disinterested the character is in the dates. After going on three dates, a fourth option is revealed that leads to the only significant choice in the game.
If the player chooses to be firm and tells the mother to stop setting them up on dates, they will meet the co-worker’s daughter, who finally provides the language to express their feelings. Instead of the standard pink-to-black gradient persistent throughout the rest of the game, this ending uses a pink-to-white gradient to symbolize self-acceptance and inner peace. However, if the player chooses to give in and try one more second date, they will reach an ending where they remain uncomfortable trying to fit into a society that pressures them to behave a certain way. The game will end, but it has an option to return to the initial choice in order to choose again.
The mom in this game symbolizes the external pressure to be in a relationship and commit to a partner. Although she is the main source of conflict for the main character, I didn’t want her to be an antagonist. Ultimately, she is a reflection of the society that surrounded her, and her misguided attempts at sending the main character on dates stem from her desire to ensure her child’s happiness. At the end of the game, she starts to realize that the character does not experience romance, which causes her to introduce the co-worker’s daughter.
The overall concept of this game was consistent throughout the development process, but I implemented a few changes after the game was playtested. Initially, there was not a very long conversation scene with the mother, and as a result, the mother’s relationship with the main character was very static. I added a bit of a confrontation after the character goes on the three dates to increase the tension in the game as well as show the rationale that led to the mother’s insistence on these dates. I also added links to aromantic and asexual resources to complement the game’s educational aspect regarding these identities and emphasize the theme. I am quite pleased with the result of the game because it fights back against ideas that have been pervasive my entire life. However, I think if I ever expand upon the game, I want to use more dialogue options on the dates to show different kinds of people's reactions when someone defies our heteronormative world.
Ultimately, “Matched” seeks to defy the assumptions that all human beings want to pursue love or sex. Through the character’s journey of self-discovery, I hope that everyone can feel liberated from societal pressure to behave in ways that are not true to one’s identity.
Thank you so much for reading and be sure to shared "Matched" with your friends!
Play here: Matched.